With the rise of the internet and video games in the last twenty years, a newer form of addiction has emerged for video game players worldwide: Internet Gaming Disorder.
Known by mental health experts as a “gaming disorder,” video game addiction can have lasting effects on the health of those who play games every day.
This is considered a newer addiction distinction, and the World Health Organization added Gaming Disorder to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). In it, the WHO describes gaming disorder as:
- Gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming
- Prioritizing gaming over interests and daily activities
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the negative consequences
Two Ways to Fall Prey to Internet Gaming Disorder
Gaming addiction can happen for both players of single-player games as well as multiple-player online games.
1. For single player games, a video game addict might be hooked on attempting to beat their high score for a particular game, finishing the final level in record time, or become obsessed with accomplishing both of these objectives.
2. Online multiplayer games are often characterized as being more addictive because they can be played for hours on end without any formal ending. Most online games have competitive matches that can be played over and over with different players or customized scenarios each time.
Look for The Warning Signs
Just like any addiction, there are signs and symptoms of gaming disorders to be watchful for, and these signs and symptoms can be both physical and psychological.
Many times a person with an addiction or obsession with continuously playing video games becomes so immersed in the games that they are unable to recognize the signs they may have a real problem.
It’s up to family and friends to be aware of abnormal behavior and understand the symptoms that might signify there could be more than simply a preoccupation at hand.
Those who have a gaming disorder might exhibit any number of the following symptoms, and should seek professional treatment if they are worried they may have a gaming addiction.
A reputable addiction treatment center will be able help addicts get on a path toward recovery from their gaming disorder.
Here are 10 Gaming Disorder Symptoms
While there are many signs that point toward a potentially harmful addiction, here’s a list of the most common gaming disorder symptoms that can be a warning of a larger problem.
1. Sleep Disturbances
Many people who have a gaming disorder have difficulty sleeping, or experience changes in sleep patterns, including periods of insomnia due to excessive gaming. They prioritize gaming over sleep and often only sleep a few hours a night until they are completely exhausted.
Gamers who have a video game addiction may become preoccupied with their games – always thinking about, planning for, or even dreaming of the video games they play. Their day is scheduled around gaming, and often times, they replace daily responsibilities with game time.
3. Increased Tolerance
Because gaming causes a type of euphoria that is similar to chemical substances, some gamers will find that their tolerance increases and they must play for longer periods of time to regain a similar euphoric feeling each time.
4. Loss of Control
Someone with a gaming disorder may find that they are unable to control themselves and how long they play their games. Like with substances such or alcohol or drugs, impaired control is a classic symptom of addiction.
5. Inability to Abstain
Video game addicts will often have trouble abstaining for a long period of time, and usually can’t go more than a few hours without playing their games. Gaming becomes a deep-seated psychological habit, and although there are no physical withdrawal symptoms to speak of, the mental withdrawal can be difficult to overcome.
Those with a gaming disorder can experience feelings of guilt or shame, or “the fear of missing out” when they aren’t able to join their friends on a particular campaign or quest. Because of the addictive qualities of this disorder, they only feel guilty when they aren’t able to play games. However, they do not feel guilt about missing other normal activities or responsibilities that do not involve gaming.
7. Loss of Interest
Video game addictions lead to a decreased interest in other activities or hobbies, as gaming begins to take up more time in the addict’s life. They only receive emotional satisfaction or gratification from playing games, and not to other activities they previously enjoyed.
8. Relationships Suffer
Video games take precedence over family or intimate relationships and can even lead to losing them for some addicts. A gamer’s infatuation with playing becomes so intense that they stop communicating or engaging with friends that don’t game, as well as parents, spouses, children, and even pets.
9. Excessive Use
Those with a gaming addiction will continue to play excessively, even if they know that their gaming activities are causing a problem in their personal lives. Time stands still for gamers and “one more minute” or “one more game” extends to hours and days on end before they even notice.
10. Lying to Family
Some individuals with an internet gaming disorder may feel the need to deceive loved ones or mental health professionals about the nature of their gaming addiction. Sometimes they understand they have a preoccupation with gaming so they try to minimize the amount of time they say they are gaming. For others, they don’t purposely lie, because they actually aren’t mindful about how out of control their situation has actually become.
Finding Recovery for a Gaming Disorder
There is hope for individuals who find they are in the grip of video game addiction. Successful recovery programs exist to help gaming addicts return to a normal life.
At Alo House, we help those with a gaming disorder get to the root causes of their addiction and teach new life skills to overcome the compulsion to gaming and prevent a relapse.
Our evidence-based treatment plan offers the supportive environment that is required to build a lasting recovery.